Friday, July 4, 2008


I just got back from camp with my homeroom. It's been stressful, but God is good, and it turned out great!

First background. Twice a year the school goes on camp. Once in winter, and once in summer. The whole school is fairly small, so we all go together. The students are very tight knit because of this.

But the school is getting larger by the year and it's getting more and more difficult to find a place for everybody on short notice. This is especially true since only a few teachers seem to do everything. You should already be seeing problems. Teacher's, especially the Japanese, seem to take too much on themselves frequently. They want to serve the students. This doesn't make sense because we aren't here to serve, we're here to teach. It's doubly annoying because one of the missions of these camps is to create leadership skills in the students. (More on this later.)

The other main problem, is that we wait until a month and a half before. Apparently we usually do it a few months ahead, but this still doesn't make sense to me. Why aren't we booking something for 200 kicks at least six months in adance, if not a year or two? Things being very busy this year, we waited until the last second (a month and a half rather than 2-3) and instead of dealing with it, it was decided that each homeroom would deal with camp themselves.

I thought this was a bad idea. The first reason for this is that the students are so tight. Grade levels are irrelevant to most students. In fact, the first thing my kids asked for when we talked about this was "we want to go with the 10th graders". The second problem is that splitting resources like this is inefficient. Supervisors will only be able to go one place. Money can't be used efficiently. We aren't doing one camp, we're doing four. That will increase overhead in time and resources. Nobody else saw it that way though. Just roses and rainbows because we only have to each find a place for 20, rather than 200. Basic economics. Bulk usually means cheaper per unit.

So now every homeroom teacher has to fend for themselves. Great. I have no clue. Fortunately, my Japanese assistant is worth more than her weight in gold. But finding a place that was in budget was hard. We had about 7500 yen ($70) per student. But even that was challenging because most good places are far away. It wasn't until the students asked a senior teacher (who used to organize these things) to accompany our class that things took off. She found us a place and we were on our way.

As the weeks progressed and I started putting events and materials together, things changed. Several weeks before, we revieved the official guidelines. Budget dropped to 4000 to 5000 yen, but the school would pick up transportation costs. Annoying, but we're roll with it.

The problems arose when we tried to actually get money. Everybody had a different budget, and figuring the total amount is still not easy. What is 4000 to 5000 yen? 4300? 4700? Some people thought it was still 7500. I had to fight to get emergency money. (You know, in case somebody breaks their arm or something. Over budget emergency funds.) Plus we kept losing kids. The way our situation was set up, almost everything had a fixed cost. Transportation and the cabins don't change. We just cram fewer kids in. So as the budget and number of students bounced around, I'm watching my margins tighten.

Then I'm told we're going to have rain. Unfortunately, our backup plans cost about another $100 per day. Two days or rain would likely put us slightly over budget.

I don't want to do on any more. In the end though, everybody was saying "we aren't going to do it this way again. We're booking a big place a year ahead of time." Then later I found out we were the "most organized group." Considering our start, this was a huge compliment. I give all credit to my assistant for being in good communication with the office. We were given crazy expectations and we worked through it. The kids were great, and the other teachers were great.

We had a wonderful team of supervisors, including my wife. We just got back this afternoon and I can say now it was wonderful. All the hard work payed off. We didn't even get rained on, even though it because an 80% chance a day before. It was overcast, but we got to swim and BBQ outside, and even played some night games.

It was a blast and Joy got to become friends with my assistant and some of the kids. Mr. White was hilarious and even the 3 1/2 hour car trip seemed short. Praise God!

One final note about the "night games". We played something called "kimodameshi". The kids mentioned it when we first started talking about activities. My assistant translated it as "Ghost... stories?... and a night walk." I thought they were making something up. I didn't realize this is an old camp favorite here.

First the students sit around telling scary stories. Then they walk this path that had been set up before hand. It is dark, and creepy. They go as one guy and a girl. Basicaly by the time they go they are already freeked out, and then they have to wander into the dark alone. Creepy, awesome idea.

I started us out with the first story. A lonely nerd meets a girl online that truly understands him. Each feels trapped by their lives and they come together. But they can't meet. One miserable night their love overwhelms them and the boy tells the girl to open her door, where ever she is and shout some love poem. A moment later, he hears the front door downstairs open and someone shouting the poem... it was his mother!!!

Scary eh?


Bonnie said...

His Mother????

That's not scarey. That is down right sick, twisted... "get out of my mind" ... psycho!

I spewed my rice bowl all over the keyboard. You owe me.

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